Being abroad means every day holds unexpected surprises. Here in Japan, I’m actually surprised at how many new people I meet each day and how well I’ve been able to remember names, which usually comes as the hardest task for me. But with so much excitement in one day, so many new sights and my mind running amuck with the language I’m trying to learn, I found myself especially grateful for the private moments I get to share with one or two special people. Every single person I’ve met has been spectacular in their own way, and I’m honored to have a few memories that I can share with a special handful of people.
During my first week of school, I started to frequent a certain café, just a ten minute walk from campus. This café serves the best ice cream flavors ever, like ほうじ茶 (houjicha: roasted green tea), and is always playing perfect music to fit your mood. I love this café so much that I went twice in one day: once for lunch, and once for dinner with a good friend of mine from Spain. Little did we know it would turn into one of the best nights of both of our study abroad experiences.
When Andrea and I walked into the café that night around 6:30 p.m., we were the only customers there. The familiar groovy, calming music was playing and we sat at a table in the dim light. After a few minutes, the waiter came over and asked, “Would you actually like to come and sit at the bar?” We agreed. Little did we know, we would share the whole night with the waiter and the owner of the café, a hilarious man named Akira who had a worldview unlike anyone I’ve ever met. We were in tears from laughter the whole night, spitting out our pizza at times. For four hours, until the café closed, we were the only customers there - talking the night away in our broken English and Japanese.
These unexpected surprises make you feel as if the universe willed you to be in this exact place and time. My advice is to always welcome these experiences by seeking out those little moments - frequent that café, talk to that elderly lady who you always pass by on the way to school, make conversation with the chef at the restaurant. Language doesn’t matter when two people are connected by the will to learn and interact with others.
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